Yeah, that’s how I feel about the Packers gut-wrenching, stomach-turning, spine-twisting 28-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome on Sunday. They Packers played like total crap and there was no way they deserved to be in the game at the end based on the way that they played. It seemed as if they could not do anything right. I have no idea where to begin, so I guess I’ll just start from the top.
Mike McCarthy really miffs me sometimes. I give him props for owning up to making a mistake in challenging Adrian Peterson‘s touchdown run late in the fourth quarter, costing the Packers their second timeout, which would have been vital to a two-minute drill. Having the second timeout would have given the Packers at least one more play, which would have allowed them another chance to get the ball closer for Mason Crosby. No matter who the kicker is, I’d feel more comfortable with a 48-yarder than a 52-yarder. Heck, a 50- or 51-yarder probably would have been good the way the ball was flying.
Tying into this, throwing a one-yard pass to Donald Driver with just over 30 seconds left on third-down was not the smartest decision on Aaron Rodgers‘ part and the play call was not the best on McCarthy’s. I know the Vikings were bringing the house and if Driver breaks Madieu Williams‘ tackle, it’s a big gain, and Crosby’s field goal is a chip-shot. However, a five-yard out along the sideline would have been a much better play call by McCarthy or a better throw by Rodgers. I hate second guessing McCarthy, as I have tremendous respect for him, but that play just really left me scratching my head.
Another decision that I was really curious about was McCarthy going away from Ryan Grant and the running game. Grant was having one of his better days, with 75 yards on 16 carries against a stout Vikings run D. Earlier in the season, 16 carries would have barely netted Grant 20 yards against an average team, but Grant was showing that his stride is coming back. McCarthy rode this horse to the NFC Championship Game a year ago; he needs to get back on it. I love McCarthy was a coach, I have to say. But that being said, he just makes some real head-scratching decisions.
Rodgers was fairly efficient in this game, completing 15 of 26 passes, but only for 142 yards and he could not connect with any of his receivers for a touchdown. It would have also helped if he could have spent some more time on his feet. The Vikings were in the backfield the whole entire game. Jared Allen had two tackles, a sack, and helped force a critical safety. Napoleon Harris was a human torpedo, leaping into the backfield on more than one occasion, getting a sack. Linebacker Ben Leber probably had the hit of the game, as he absolutely laid-out (and I do mean absolutely laid-out) Rodgers as Rodgers attempted to go deep. The Packers quarterback was visibly shaken up and you have to wonder how his shoulder has to be holding up after taking a beating like this. I would say pass protection is the main reason that the passing game was struggling. Chad Clifton was absolutely owned by Allen, and Scott Wells did not have a good game at center.
The Packers did bust out “The Big Five” for the first time this season, using the five-receiver set six times. They netted four completions and 51 yards out of it, but it may have been counterproductive, exposing Rodgers to a vicious pass rush and some unnecessary hits.
Speaking of the wide receivers, the Packers star pass catchers were kept silent for most of Sunday. Driver led all receivers with five receptions for 46 yards, including a great catch on a deflection during the Packers frantic two-minute drill. Greg Jennings was shut down, catching only three passes for 37 yards. He needs to have big games for the Packers to do well, and he was been neutralized in recent weeks. One name appearing in the box score I haven’t seen in a while is James Jones. Jones had one catch for five yards late in the game. The second-year wide receiver was a key to the Packers early season success in early 2007, but has basically fallen off the map after his infamous two-fumble game against the Chicago Bears in Week 5. I personally blame Brett Favre for Jones’ disappearance, but let’s not get into that.
I just about covered this earlier. Grant had a good game with 76 yards on the ground and a touchdown, but was basically written out of the game plan. He needs to get going for the Packers to win. It is absolutely imperative for Grant to have good games down the stretch for the Packers if they even want to make the playoffs, let alone win in them. It was just total crap. I know the Vikings have a great run defense that was holding Grant back and that the offensive line play was suspect, but give Grant the ball and let him make plays.
The pass defense is what kept the Packers in the game for this one. The secondary held Gus Frerotte to 151 pass yards on 15 completions out of 28 attempts. The team picked him off three times, with Nick Collins returning one for a touchdown to cut the Vikings 21-10 lead to 21-17. Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams also got in on the party. Williams’ interception, however, was canceled out, as he gave up an early touchdown pass to Sidney Rice. Williams foolishly gave up inside leverage on Rice near the goal line and Frerotte easily hit him for six. Frerotte also had another touchdown pass to Chester Taylor after Taylor broke a Desmond Bishop tackle attempt and scampered for six. Bishop was replacing Nick Barnett who had left with a knee injury. Taylor was the Vikings’ lead receiver with four receptions for 84 yards with half coming on the aforementioned touchdown catch and run. Peterson was the second-leading receiver with three catches for 33 yards. Bobby Wade led all Vikings wide receivers with 24 yards on three receptions. The Packers pass defense performed the best of all the units on Sunday.
Can you say, “sieve?” Well say it again, because that is what we were looking at folks. The statline for Peterson: 30 rushes, 192 yards, one touchdown. The Packers were absolutely gashed. There is no way to really describe it, other than the fact Peterson was a man among boys, breaking tackles and turning gains of nothing into gains of something. Just reading that statline should show how bad the Packers rush defense played. There is really nothing else to say about it. Young running backs seem to be the Achilles’ heel for the Packers: Peterson this week; Chris Johnson and LenDale White of the Tennessee Titans last week; how will Matt Forte of the Bears do next?
As I alluded to earlier, Crosby’s miss had a direct correlation to McCarthy’s timeout mismanagement and questionable play calling. I trust Crosby’s leg moreso than any Packers kicker since Ryan Longwell. People should not get down on the kid for missing this field goal. It was makeable, but he missed. Life goes on. The Packers should have even been in this situation where they needed a game-winning field goal. Why? Field position. The Packers took it somewhere oh so unpleasant on this facet of the game. Their best field position came at the end of the game after a great kickoff return by Will Blackmon. If the Packers field position had been better and they had not ended up with the ball inside the ten-yard line on numerous occasions for certain reasons (I’m looking at you, Blackmon), the Packers could have easily avoided those two safeties. Take the safeties away, and what’s the score? 27-24. Packers win. But instead it was 28-27. Packers lose. So although I apologized to Blackmon yesterday for calling for bad things to be happing to him after his horrible decision and subsequent punt return for a touchdown, I’m not totally happy with him. If he could get the ball out of deep in Packers territory, the safeties would have been avoided, causing at least a four-point swing.
The Packers could have come out of Minnesota with a 5-4 record and a share for the division lead. Instead they come out 4-5, gasping for air and trying to stay above the water in the NFC North.
Topics: Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Ben Leber, Bobby Wade, Brett Favre, Chad Clifton, Charles Woodson, Chester Taylor, Chris Johnson, Desmond Bishop, Donald Driver, Green Bay Packers, Greg Jennings, Gus Frerotte, James Jones, Jared Allen, LenDale White, Madieu Williams, Mason Crosby, Matt Forte, Mike McCarthy, Minnesota Vikings, Napoleon Harris, Nick Barnett, Nick Collins, Ryan Grant, Ryan Longwell, Scott Wells, Sidney Rice, Tennessee Titans, Tramon Williams, Will Blackmon